A Thinking & Action Kit for the Future of Youth Work

In this episode, we are discussing our upcoming publication Thinking Together and Levelling Up: a thinking and action kit for the continuous development, improvement and strengthening of the youth work field.

Bastian: My wish

or my dream would be that everywhere
in Europe or in the world, but

let's stay with Europe for now.

It can be a reasonable choice for a
young person to decide that they want to

work in youth work and it's not going to
require them to sacrifice their future.

Ismael: Hello everyone.

And welcome to under 30, a podcast
brought to you by the youth

partnership between the European
Commission and the council of Europe.

I'm Ismael Paez Civico Civico
and together with Marietta Balazs

, we'll be hosting this episode.

I hope you enjoy.

Marietta: Welcome to the
under 30 broadcast series

of the youth partnership.

Today's episode is a preview of
one of our upcoming publications.

Thinking together and leveling up,
I thinking and action kit for the

continuous development improvement
and strengthening of the youth work

field, which will be published.

So it's part of our insights
series and it's the first

one, the focus on youth work.

It summarizes the results of a large
scale research project and presents it in

the morning gauging format and language
today we have with us Ajsa and Bastian

the two authors of the thinking kit.

Ajsa, Bastian, could you please
say a few things about you.

Ajsa: Thank you Marietta.

So my name is Ajsa and I'm a youth
worker, uh, and actually youth worker

coming from a context where youth work
is still really at the very early stages

of being recognized, uh, while it is
being practiced for quite some time.

So in that sense, I was happy to
be able to contribute to writing

this Thinking and Action Kit that
would help in different contexts.

Uh, all of us will actually support
youth work and development further.

Bastian: Yeah.

Hello, I'm Bastian.

I'm a facilitator of learning and
all kinds of different contexts.

I grew up in the environment of the
European youth centers in Strasburg

and Budapest, where I learned my
craft, I would say, uh, but now

I work in all kinds of places and
I think I came into this project.

More as someone who's had
some experience in writing.

Who's had some experience in explaining
stuff to people and who has a bigger,

or a bit more of a distant view,
a little bit farther away from it.

And who can, uh, it's not so much in the
field, but looks at it from the outside.

Marietta: It is very important to keep
a few things in mind before we dive

into the content of the Thinking Kit.

Youth Work development is
a continuum without a final

endpoint, we can always improve it.

There is also diversity among different
countries and different regions.

For example, there might
be different definitions or

qualifications for youth workers.

Therefore the thinking kit
is not a step-by-step guide.

It aims to support you finding the
best path forward in your own country.

In the thinking kit we talk a lot
about your own context, this means your

particular organization, your geographic
location, the reality in which you work,

the thinking kit is a reality check, it's
a journey or checkpoint to bring forward.

The European Youth Work environment

Ismael: okay.


So thank you very much, Marietta for
that short introduction of what is

actually the thinking and action kit.

And now I do have another
question more towards our guests.

So towards Ajsa and Bastian
specifically, and what exactly

is a thinking and action kit,
but more from your perspective, a

less theoretical perspective, what
do you wish to achieve with it?

And what exactly is its purpose
button, please, if you might want to

start with that question and then we
can give the, give the word to Ajsa.

Bastian: So when we were.

Thinking about how we
will approach this work.

We didn't want to do a toolkit.

We didn't want to give a set of
instructions that was okay, do this

first and then do that and then do that.

And then you'll be successful because
the contexts across Europe are just

so incredibly different and the
starting points are so different.

And also.

The things that would work in each
context, us so completely different.

And so what we wanted to provide was
a practical publication or a practical

set of ideas that get people to think
more questions than answers really,

but that all a geared towards action.

So that it's not just saying with
all, let's think about interesting

things, even though that's it.

Thing to do in your free time, but if
you want to change something, if you want

to make things better than the thinking
needs to be geared towards action.

And so we wanted to give, uh, a tool that
allows people to think deeply and think

together and have meaningful conversations
with the stakeholders that need to

be around the table, but that are all
geared towards improving the environment

for youth workers all across Europe.

Ismael: I think that is a, that's very
interesting what you said, because of

course youth work is not just there to
give you answers , it's mainly there

to give you the framework and the tools
to actually get the, get the answers to

the questions you're asking yourself.

So even the approach itself is kind
of interesting when you say that

we're not there to give the answers
we're there to ask the questions.

I want everyone to think critically on
what actually is the best outcome or the

best solutions to the problems that we
have at hand, especially when it comes to.

a diverse continent as is Europe
and every country has their

own realities to deal with.

Um, Ajsa please.

Ajsa: Yeah, I completely agree that
that was, that was our, our approach.

Maybe I can add just the one little,
little thing in adding to this thinking

and action, which actually then
became the title of the, of the kid.

Um, we were looking,
well, actually prepared.

Ourselves and everyone who would be
the future user of the, uh, kit, to

start thinking and then to enter into
action, because even to reflect, you

know, you, you need to have a certain
perspective on what's the situation.

You need to have a certain understanding
of what's happening in your own context,

but then also, uh, what we found
helpful from different experiences.

Both as educators and youth workers
is that it helps to know also the

examples of how other people or in
other contexts things can be done.

Or it helps also to understand, to a
simple story of how that affects me,

or, you know, anyone, someone who is in
the youth work field or, or, uh, in this

particular, in this particular case who
is a youth worker and these kinds of.

Improvements in that, in the field.

And that's, that's why, you know, in order
to get to the reflection questions, to the

thinking part, and then it will be really
the best equipped to take some action

and to, uh, actually work on improving
the, uh, the youth work environment.

In your own context.

We also provided a bit of a, let's
say, translation of what has been.

Collected in an impressive
knowledge book that Marietta was

talking about summarizing it to
the very core of the findings.

And one was the, exactly the
diversity of experiences across

Europe, and then also what works.

And we are really hoping that
this will help also to inspire.

To an extent to inspire also people who
are thinking, okay, now we are stuck

with all, you know, what else can we do?

How can we move things forward?

But those examples can actually
inspire the little stories that we

share them and actually show why is
it important and how important it is

that there are better conditions for
youth work in every context in Europe.

Ismael: For when it comes to, I mean,
to the context of course, of, of

youth, we we're speaking a lot about
differences in different countries or

in different actual realities, how youth
work goes from one place to another.

So if I understood correctly,
is this a specific framework

only for the European continent?

Cause, cause you just said the world and
of course when it comes to the world and

itself, what do exactly mean by that?

Uh, because Europe is very
different from the rest of the

countries around the world.

So can, this may be thinking kit.

From South Africa, for example,
from Columbia, get the thinking and

say, okay, I can actually replicate
some of these things, uh, in Europe.

Do, do you want to Europe to actually
become like a pioneer in making an example

of what an actual structural framework for
youth work can be, uh, around the world.

Ajsa: Two sides to that.

To be answered to that question.

Uh, one is primarily the thinking and
action kit is for European context.

And, you know, once you get to it, you
can see that there is all this element

of how can youth work at your context
local national regional can be supported

by certain developments or European level
or resources developed at european level.

However, with that said, I think,
you know, contexts in within

Europe are already so diverse.

And the questions that we were asking,
and we're really trying to be as

inclusive as possible so that no one,
basically really, even, I would say

maybe Bastian can also jump in, but even
anywhere in the world who say, well,

this doesn't have anything to do with me.


This question is good question to
start thinking about what we can do.

And I think that's the, that's the value
of the thinking and action or such.

So, right.

Answer, provide a solution if
you want in particular context.

And of course it helps
with the European level.

So the resources and factors that
are supporting towards you youth

work and its recognition and its
role for young people in society,

Ismael: And you Bastian

do you think that Europe, I mean,
I'll ask you the same question.

Maybe you have a different, a
different perspective because we do

know that Europe has been leading in
some things, for example, the green

transition, do you think can be the
same thing with youth work in itself?

And getting a general framework.

Like you've been developing here
asking the right questions in order

to hopefully get the right answers.

Do you think other countries
maybe or continents.

As a matter of fact, can
take that same approach.

Bastian: The entire story of humanity
is, uh, going elsewhere, looking what

works there and then transplanting it
to some degree into one's own context

and see if it flourishes there.

I mean, the.

Potatoes from Peru uh, nourished
the Irish and Polish and everyone

in Europe and chilies from Mexico
are part and parcel of the Indian

cuisine and et cetera, et cetera.

So I would hope that people from
across the world can look at this and

not say, oh, this is how you do it.

Because that's not how this works,
but they can, uh, that anybody who

works with young people anywhere
could look at this and say, okay,

what could be my version of this?

And what way could I be inspired to
take a perspective on my context,

look at the different stakeholders.

In my context, look at the resources
that I have available to me that

other people might not have.

Uh, but what do I have look
around, uh, and really see.

What might flourish here?

What might work here?

What kind of relationship between
stakeholders is possible here

and what is not possible here?

And in what ways can I kind of create
an ecosystem of a connection and of

ambition and of, um, vision that can.

Allow the young people that live
here, have the resources and have

the access and have a path into their
future that is worth working for

Marietta: what do you think?

What can be the main impact
of the thinking kit in Europe?

Let's imagine we have already published
the thinking kit, people start to use

it and we can notice some changes.

What do you hope to be the main
impact of this publication on the

life of a youth worker who works on
grassroots level somewhere in Europe.

Ajsa: I think our hope or my hope
when, when we were working and

discussing definitely initiates

first of all thinking and, uh, saying,
understanding the context, but then

also initiates the changes and changes,
hopefully, either in direction with

improvement of conditions of youth work.

Uh, we have seen, uh, in the, in the,
in the knowledgeable how, uh, what, what

the research has captured, how different
situation it is from context to context.

And our, our idea was.

Each one can improve, you know, even
in the, in the, let's say the most

developed and supportive environment
for youth work there are still uh,

things that could be improved.

And, uh, uh, in the let's
say, least developed more.

Those, the context where youth work
is only at the early stages of being

recognized, or even be back this sense,
there is a horizon that you can see that.

This is still a starting point from
which we can take things forward.

And when we were working on this we
were thinking Not only about youth

workers as initiators of change.

And I think that's important too.

Our idea is that actually anyone in the,
in the field could recognize themselves

as somebody who can initiate this thinking
and then action taking to change things.

So it can be equally a youth worker who
recognize themselves in the situation

as much as educators, youth workers.

To do something with their
curriculums or work from that point

on onwards, it can be a policymaker.

It can be a decision-maker looking
at, you know, legislation surrounding

the surrounding the youth work.

It can be an employer, anyone in the
civil sector or in the local authorities

or in the you know again, very
different from, from country to country.

But every single actor we hope they'll
recognize themselves as somebody

who could be that hero offer youth
work development, let's say would

be that person of initiating the
spark of change or improvement of,

you know, putting things in motion
toward reaching the better conditions.

Ismael: So I want to, I actually
relay now a question, uh, more towards

Bastian because we are speaking about
the disparities between the countries

and that's one of the gaps that actually
needed bridging on how we can actually

find an architectural framework if
you will, to put everything together.

But we need to go of course, from
a high resolution point of view,

when it comes to very specific
points and what actually happens.

To a low resolution point of view.

So go permit, uh, open up the
scope towards the whole of Europe.

Bastian what do you think may be the
main pillars of that scope would be

something that maybe everyone has in
common, uh, are not focusing so much

on the, uh, well on the specificities
of each country or each reality.

How would you be able to describe a
bit how we can find a common ground

and what will be the main things
that maybe everyone needs to adopt?

Bastian: That's a tricky question
because the high risk solution is

very fuzzy and there is really such a
diversity of youth worker realities.

There are places in Europe where
it is a very feasible career and

there is a structure around it.

You can study it.

There are employment possibilities, there
are career paths you can grow in it.

And then there are other areas where.

It is a hobby.

Uh, and then people exploit themselves
essentially to do what they love, but

they live in very precarious situations.

And there's a huge degree of
inequality when it comes to this.

And so we see quite a lot
of youth workers that are.

Either going into these precarious
situations and having very unstable lives

around that, going from project grant
to project grant and seeing how they can

make a living from it or how they can keep
surviving from it and who at some point

move somewhere else, maybe where they
can actually make a living and make it a

profession and not just a glorified hobby.

And so I think it's very difficult
to say what is needed everywhere.

I think what is.

Needed everywhere is, uh, a
dissatisfaction with the status quo

and a belief that more is possible.

But what is also needed, I think,
is that from what ever vantage point

you have, whether or not you're a
practitioner or a politician or a

professor who trains youth workers.

Is that it can start with you.

It doesn't have to
start with someone else.

You don't have to wait for someone else.

It can always start with you.

Which to me is a very
empowering perspective.

It also is an uncompromising perspective
because then it means that if you

want change, you actually have to
do something and you can't wait for

someone else for the European union.

To give a framework or for the
council of Europe to give some

solutions to it, but it actually
has to start with you because no one

knows your context as good as you do.

No one can find a solution that works
for your context, as good as you can in

dialogue with the other stakeholders.

And I think that for me is the, is the
main message here is that it has to

start local or regional and it needs.

All those factors, it needs policy.

It needs pressure from practice
that they need the policy.

It needs also then an opening in
academia to actually take youth work

serious and provide actual educational
pathways to become a youth worker maybe.

And it needs all of this.

And I hope also what this thinking could
then provide when people go in and they

read examples from other countries.

It might instill healthy
sort of competition.

You're not, not, not every development
is done for the altruistic reasons.

That would be great.

If the development would be motivated
from that, sometimes it's just, you don't

want to be out done by your neighbor.

And if from that motivation,
Possibilities for youth workers to

do their work meaningfully without
constant fear of precariarity then

so maybe it, but at least, uh, we have
development in the right direction.

Ismael: I like that idea of a healthy
competition that actually does

help cause some countries within,
within Europe, uh, replicate some

things I've already been working.

We'll speak about a few examples a bit
later on, but I have a question, uh,

towards Ajsa because Bastian, you actually
brought up policy and what politicians

may be can do to actually facilitate

uh, these processes, but more importantly,
my question as a well, as a youth

worker would be, how can we make sure
that actually politicians don't dictate

what youth workers do when maybe them
themselves don't actually know what's

going on at the local level, uh, how we
can have that, that right balance between.

What's the role of the youth worker
specifically to actually create the

viable framework in their own reality
and how politicians can just leave

a good platform for them to act upon
and not necessarily impose ideas that

might think that might be beneficial.

But in the end don't end up working.

What do you think might be the
role of politicians in that case?


Ajsa: I think it's really important
here to understand that what we

are talking about and what is being
presented in the thinking and action

kit or youth work is not about
the content of youth work as such.

It is really around about everything
that surrounds and provides conditions

for me to actually do the policy
youth work meaningfully make a

change in the life of a young person.

What is it?

That youth work is actually there
for, and I think in that sense,

politicians absolutely have a role
to play and politicians, decision

makers, policy makers, all of those.

What creating conditions surrounding
how youth work where, could it be

practiced, with whom, under which
conditions , would it be paid or

not how sustainable that would be
the, you know, really have the role

to answer to those questions, to their
whole problems of the society or not.

And in that sense, I think what we
were also trying to do for this kit is

not to say that one of the actors.

has bigger responsibility than the
other, not to say that one needs to lead

and the others will consult or advice,
but rather than actually in the, you will

see in, in, in the questions, one of the
first things that we are asking people

to think about is who else is around you.

Which of the actors, which are the
profiles of people with power in the, in,

in, in different ways, power to influence
the change that you want to see happening.

And in that sense, I think if
youth worker are initiating.

Yeah, certain change.

I mean, through them, it definitely
needs to come this connecting with the

political level and policy level so that
the change could be more sustainable

if it starts from the, from the
political level, from, from the other

side again, you know, it never works.

And this is, I mean from more fields than,
than, than one and youth work as well.

So it's an exception.

It never works.

If you are just introducing solutions
without actually involving the people to

whom they are going to actually address
with they're going to change that reality.

So I'm hoping that we do put it, with our
thinking and action kit it will be very

clear that what we are proposing, even
though they are asking questions that

we are proposing, that it's a consensus
building work around what needs to change

positively to improve the situation.

So that actually the youth work, ideally
youth work how we see it as a meaningful

practice contributing to the, to the
young people, into the societies is

being practiced in a way that, uh, that
is optimal in, in certain politics.

And that's, and that's what,
uh, I would say that I think

that's the most important part.

We were stressing until now how,
you know, the change can start from

you and, you know, I can be the one.

But I can be the one to initiate it.

And this is important element.

I don't need to be a superhero and kind
of do everything on my own and actually

like that it doesn't really work, but
we are actually talking about initiating

starting the process and involving all the
other actors, all the other stakeholders.

So that together you can both think about
the change that needs to happen or the

concrete step that needs to happen and
then actually make it, make it happen.

Bastian: Yeah, I think what it
really needs, it is a collaborative,

confident, humility on all sides, right.

You need, uh, in order to really
develop youth work infrastructure and.

Practice architecture.

So practice environments, you need
every actor to, to come to the table,

being really confident in how they
can contribute and being really humble

about where they need someone else.


You need policymakers who know
like, yes, I know how to write

good policy, but I really don't
know how the practice looks like.

And you need youth workers who come
to the table and said, I really don't

know how to work this policy stuff.

But I really know the young
people that I work with.

And if both can come together with
confidence in what they know and

humility around what they don't know,
that's a pretty good starting point.

I see.

Ismael: I really like how you both are
presented the co-creation let's say of

these frameworks, because usually it's
either one way or the other it's either

top-down or bottom-up usually, and then
we never speak about what things can I

actually do to complement your work and
what can you do to complement my work?

And I think this collaboration indeed,
between decision makers and NGOs or,

let's say international networks of
youth workers, actually a big actor

in Europe, uh, in itself is, um,
it's basically the best way to go.

And I think there's actual thinking kit
and action kit gives the resources to not

only decision makers, also youth workers,
uh, and everyone in the field to say,


What do I need?

What do I lack in and where
can actually be of service?

Because again, we can't
change the world on our own.

We actually do need help from other people
and we need to collaborate together.

And I think that's the whole
basis of youth work is teamwork.


We're not alone, uh, in the,
in the journey in some way.

I would like to, uh, to, to ask a
little closing question, let's say, um,

what do you actually hope that youth
work will, will be like in five years?

Let's say, how would you see it?

What do you think now?

The adaptability we need to do,
especially maybe COVID for example,

we are seeing some complicated
situations of youth like around Europe.

Um, what are the actions you wish
that young people actually do take

all decision makers take in order to
improve youth work around Europe and the

framework in essence, that you've been
describing all throughout the episode

and in the thinking and action kit.

Ajsa: It's a very difficult question.

I'm thinking now is five years,
uh, kind of too ambitious.

For what I'm hoping.

But I, I would start with what I'm
looking for already for some time.

And I hope the thinking and action
kit can contribute to that because

of this initiating of changes.

That that is somewhere in its purpose.

I would, I would hope for consensus
that youth work is a practice that is.

Beneficial to young people and that
access for youth work is really clear

and, uh, enabled for every young person
across, uh, different European contexts.

And as I was saying also even for
five years, maybe to be, to be, to

be realistic and look at Europe.

And I think everything that needs
to happen around around that

is, you know, this is the aim.

Uh, would really come to, uh, come to
place easily in a way, you know, if you

are, if there is really no doubt about
the benefits of youth work from young

people and society, uh, I think it will
be much easier for all actors that we

were describing and talking about to
divert resources over that, and actually

come, come up with particular solutions
for different contexts to make it happen.

I again, we don't want to prescribe
solutions and there are no clear

solutions that could work, uh, everywhere.

You, you have very different,
different situations, but I think

you need to have always this kind of
horizon or kind of vision in mind.

So why would we need to improve
anything in the youth work field?

You know, if this, if there is a clear
answer to that question, then everything

else I would say would come to play.

I'm hoping in the next, you know, as
soon as the figure of thinking and

action kit is published and in years
following that people feel more and more

come to this question, you know, why?

And then I think concrete
steps to actually make it work.

Bastian: I think for me, my, my wish
or my dream would be that everywhere

in Europe or in the world, but let's
stay with Europe, for now, uh, that.

It can be a reasonable choice for a
young person to decide that they want to

work in youth work and it's not going to
require them to sacrifice their future.

It doesn't require them to, uh,
make really, really tough choices,

but there is an infrastructure to
become edgy that there is a support.

Around, um, there, there's a way to make
this your life to make this your work.

And that there is an appreciation from
society that this is crucial work, that

this isn't, this isn't hobby stuff.

This isn't free time activities.

This isn't a luxury.

This is actually
foundational for a society.

And I think in the, in the context of
COVID, what we've seen is that the.

The caring professions are the ones
that are really foundational and

really fundamental when it comes
to, uh, uh, functioning of society.

They've been labeled essential
workers, but I would just call them

the foundations of any community.

The foundations of any society are
the ones who care and nourish and

nurture the wellbeing of the community
and youth workers are such people.

And I think if they be, um, if we
can work towards a recognition of the

importance of this work and the, um,
the recognition that comes with that

is then that there is actually career
pathways and there is actually a way to.

Make this, your work, raise a family on
the salary that you are receiving from it.

And, uh, and do this as your
life's work, then that would be,

uh, uh, a Europe I would be proud
to be a citizen of, I think,

Ismael: and on those lovely ending notes,
we have reached an end to our episode.

Remember that you can access this
publication and many others on our

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Thank you very much and see you next time.

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